Soil available at Hillside Stone & Garden:
~ Earthbank Fish Compost General Information ~
The basic definition of compost is a material that results from the consumption of organic material by bacteria, fungus, and other organisms. Its main use is to enrich or feed the soil to enhance the growth of plants. The science and culture of composting is the facilitation of the breakdown of organic material into a useable product under controlled conditions. The art of composting is setting up and maintaining the environmental conditions under which these microorganisms can multiply and flourish.
The composting process is actually the cultivation of an astonishing diversity of countless billions of microorganisms that exist naturally everywhere at relatively low levels. The organic matter referred to as 'feedstock' is prepared in a variety of formulas and conditions utilizing air, moisture and particle size to provide an ideal growing environment so that these microorganisms can consume the given feedstock. This process is very much alive. For example, a handful of compost contains literally billions of organisms occupying as much as 50% of the contents of any given compost. These microorganisms can be referred to as a type of 'livestock'; a reference used by the founder of modern composting Sir Albert Howard, C.I.E., M.A., a British mycologist and agriculturist.
The particular feedstocks utilized at Earthbank's composting facility at the Hof Waldeck Farm are farmed and wild fish offal, farmed salmon mortalities, ground up bark from the forestry industry and ground up land clearing debris(exclusively local forest materials). The fish based component provides the protein feedstock and the wood based component provides the carbohydrate feedstock to stimulate the culture of the microrganisms. This process is conceptually similar to the culture of cheese, yoghurt and wine, for example. All of these products require specific feedstock and ideal environmental conditions to stimulate the culture of desirable microorganisms to produce an intended end product.
Compost which provides plant nutrition however is fundamentally different than commercial plant fertilizers in a number of significant ways. Most importantly, the production of compost is exclusively a biological process and the production of commercial fertilizer is a manufacturing process dealing with inert materials (elements and compounds). Commercial fertilizers are a form of direct feeding of nutrients to plants in the form of simple manufactured compounds. There is no benefit to the soil, as a matter of fact it is now widely recognized that commercial fertilizers can be detrimental to the soil and the environment. Compost provides plants with a complex array of essential nutrients already bio-synthesized into complete proteins, etc. This is due solely to the fact that compost is alive with microorganisms that interact symbiotically with plants.
A useful human food consumption analogy would be 'living primarily on nutrient pills and intravenous feeding of essential nutrients'. Though humans can survive this way it is hardly an adequate replacement for a healthy diet. Though the analogy has its limitations, more and more it is being recognized that there is no replacement for feeding the soil (indirectly feeding the plants) with compost, manures and other organic matter.
One of the most significant benefits of compost applied to soil is the stimulation and culture of fungal microorganisms known as mycorrhiza. These organisms form what is known as the mycorrhizal association that is the living fungus bridge between humus in the soil and the roots of plants. This living bridge acts as a transfer process exchanging complex essential nutrient compounds between plant and fungi. Recent research is pointing to the likelihood that the vast majority of plant species require this relationship for long term survival. This symbiotic relationship between plants and soil organisms is now being recognized as critical to healthy plant growth and is revolutionizing the way we view plant nutrition.
The Organic Materials Review Institute has recently reviewed Earthbank's process and inputs. OMRI has listed our fish compost for use in organic production. As well, our compost has been certified and quality approved by the Rodale Organic Gardening Solvita Process. This assures the consumer that our compost is of the highest quality.
The main difference between an OMRI Listing and the 'Rodale Certified' is that an OMRI Listing focuses more on what is not in our compost and the Rodale Certified focuses on the actual quality of the compost. OMRI requires that all inputs in our composting process are provided in detail including our test results for potential contaminants. However, compost samples are not submitted, or required.
The 'Rodale Certified' program is administered by Woods End Research Laboratory Inc. whom specializes in compost quality analysis. In order to obtain and maintain certification it is required to send in actual compost samples to Woods End which are then put through a rigorous analysis of possible contaminants, nutrient levels and other accepted measurements for compost quality. Our compost achieved the highest rating possible in both the garden compost and nutrient compost categories.
The Advantages of Using Our Product
• Earthbank Fish Compost can be used without restriction in all applications. It provides a nutrient rich and biologically active root medium that helps plants suppress disease and thrive.
• Fish Compost is a powerful soil amendment including use as a turf/lawn top dressing, mulch, and erosion control media, as it helps retain soil moisture.
• Our compost is finely screened, mature and has been composting for a minimum of two years.
• Fertilizer is generally not required if Earthbank Fish Compost is used in sufficient quantity.
• Fish Compost is very rich averaging more than 2% total nitrogen.
• Feedstock used is exclusively fish offal, both wild and farmed, some farmed fish mortalities, and bark from fir and hemlock, ground up land clearing debris, and some sawdust from local sawmills. No other inputs are used.
• Concerns about disease in farmed fish are unfounded. The high temperatures of composting (+60 degrees C) destroy all pathogens whether they are from fish, humans, or anything else. Further, fish diseases are harmless to humans.
• Antibiotics in farmed fish are low when compared to other farmed products. Further, the composting process breaks down any remaining residue.
• Earthbank's Fish Compost does not contain PCB's. Heavy metals have consistently tested very low in our compost. Test results are available upon request.
Bring your Soil to life with Compost
The secret to maintaining a vibrant and healthy soil that consistently yields strong root and plant growth is the addition of beneficial micro-organisms and vital organic matter. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are not required.
• High organic content
• Available nutrients
• Increased disease suppression
• Superior water holding capacity
• Stronger root development
• Weed free
As a general rule of thumb when applying compost primarily to improve the soil the following general guidelines apply. If the soil is poor quality then approximately the equivalent of 3 inches deep should be applied. If the soil is good quality then about 1 inch application is adequate. Either the compost can be mixed in to the top 3 or 4 inches of the soil, or it can simply be applied as a top dressing. This would depend upon the situation of the area being treated. If it is a new garden area then mixing into the topsoil is preferable but if it is an established garden, then top dressing is preferable. On new gardens a combination of mixing in and top dressing after the garden becomes established is ideal. When mixing compost with soil insure that the mixed in compost stays near the surface (3 to 4 inches only) where there is available oxygen to facilitate enhanced microbiological activity. Plants do most of their 'feeding' near the surface of the soil.
Mulching Existing Gardens:
Using our fish compost as a mulch is one of the more popular singular uses of our product. Our fish compost has an attractive black soil-like appearance that is increasingly being used in place of bark mulch. Though it is more expensive than bark mulch, it has several advantages that make it worth while:
• Its dark color is aesthetically pleasing
• Provides a beautiful contrast for your garden plants
• Does not bleach, it stays dark in color
• Has significant fertilizer value
• Friable and easily spread
• Absorbs water more effectively than bark
Even after 1 year our compost continues to look good in your garden. All that is required is that the surface is raked over and any plant debris that has accumulated removed. Further any weeds that may become established are easily removed due to the friable nature of compost. The compost itself is 100% weed free. Also, the compost simply becomes a beneficial part of your soil while bark mulch will eventually rob your soil of nutrients as it starts to break down. Fertilizer must be used in conjunction with bark mulch and is not necessary with compost.
Containers and Planters:
Please note that we recommend that you use our 30 liter or 15 liter green bagged product available at various garden supply outlets listed under Retail Locations for potted plants and smaller planters. This compost is always very finely screened and more suitable than our bulk compost which can be a little coarser especially in the early spring when fine screening is more difficult due to wet conditions.
To enhance potted plants remove as much soil as possible from the top of the pot without damaging the roots and replace with Earthbank fish compost.
For potting and planter mixes use 1 part Earthbank fish compost to 2 parts standard potting soil blend. For light feeders use 1 part fish compost to 3 parts standard potting soil blend. The compost and soil should be mixed thoroughly.
Earthbank fish compost, or any compost should not be used, or considered a replacement for soil. Compost is a soil amendment, it is not soil. The maximum mixture we recommend is up to 50% compost and 50% soil blend. This should only be considered for heavy feeders that are annuals. Generally speaking, because our compost is so rich in nutrients it is not necessary to 'overuse' it in potting mixes.
New & Established Lawns:
For new lawns work in 1 to 3 inches of Earthbank fish compost into the top 3 to 4 inches of soil depending on the quality of the soil. Poor soil will need about 3 inches of compost and very good soil requires only about an inch of compost. Add sod, or plant with seed as usual.
For existing lawns cover the area lightly with 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of compost. Using a flexible grass rake, then distribute and rake in as evenly as possible and then water thoroughly. This procedure can be repeated several times as the grass grows into the compost. Please see procedure demonstrated in the photo gallery.
Keep in mind that lawns can be considered heavy feeders if you want a green, lush lawn. If this is your objective then best results will be achieved with liberal doses of fish compost.
For newly planted trees dig a hole twice the size of the root ball. Thoroughly mix 1/4 Earthbank fish compost with the removed native soil before planting. Further as an added boost top dress with a 1 to 2 inch layer of compost mulch around the base of the tree immediately after planting the tree. Water thoroughly and watering should be carefully monitored in the first season until the tree is established especially during dry spells.
For smaller existing trees simply top dress 1 to 3 inches of compost around the base of the tree depending the quality of the soil, whether the tree requires heavy feeding, and your objectives.
For larger trees it is only necessary to provide the compost in a ring around the drip line of the tree for effective utilization of the compost. This ring can be anywhere from 2 to several feet wide depending on the size of the tree. Most of the tree's feeder roots are in this area and are near the surface where the compost is placed. Again, application rates can range from 1 to 3 inches depending on the quality of the soil and the needs of the tree.